As a motorsport photographer I enjoy taking pictures of fast cars. As well as shooting cars on a race track, I work with manufacturers, drivers and sponsors photographing cars out on public roads. Working on public roads means you need to be more aware of safety considerations, for yourself, your clients and other road users.
I recently worked with Scottish race driver Christie Doran and one of her partners, the Leven Car Company in Edinburgh, who provided a Zenos E10S sports car for the photoshoot. Christie works for Leven Car Company on track days at Knockhill Race Circuit and other circuits in the UK and one of the cars she drives is the Zenos. The Zenos E10S is a road legal track car, built in Norfolk and with performance to put a huge smile on the driver’s face.
We took the Zenos out into the Scottish Borders for a day shooting in the countryside and here are my tips for anyone wanting to get into car photography.
You need to plan your shoot meticulously and have a backup plan in case you need to change locations for any reason, such as a change in the weather or a motorhome parked up in the area you had planned to use – both of which happened to me on this particular shoot!
Preparing a shoot list is important so that all parties know what you are planning to do and where you are planning on doing it. I divide my shoots into two areas – static shots and moving shots. For this photo shoot I was also shooting video, so I needed to build this into my plan.
I always recce the location a few days in advance and look at the various areas that I have chosen to shoot the car in. I also choose more locations than I will need just in case I need to switch to a different spot.
For the moving shots you need to plan where you are going to turn the car around. There is no point choosing a nice road if it means the car is going to have to travel a long distance before there is a spot to turn around and come back. You also need to consider other road users when shooting the moving sequences. How busy is the road at the time you plan to shoot the sequences?
Also look out for other obstacles. The road we were using was in the countryside and there were sheep wandering on the road. Although I planned to shoot the moving sequences away from the sheep, you need to be aware of animals and wildlife when shooting.
This is a really important aspect of car photography on the public roads. First thing is sticking to the speed limits. Not only is this a legal requirement but also from a safety point of view for you, your clients and other road users.
The second thing is the tracking shots. On a race track we shoot car to car from the back of a road car, strapping the photographer into the vehicle with a safety harness. On a public road this is not advisable and is actually illegal.
If you are on private land it is OK and if you have access to a private area then you can get some great shots, but be safe and make sure you are secure. On a public road I use a remote camera on the back of the leading car and shoot with that.
An essential part of any car photographer’s kit is a bucket, cloths, water, chamois leather or blade, glass cleaner and bug remover spray. The car needs to be spotless when shooting it and cleaning the car before you shoot will save you loads of time in Photoshop later.
Also check around the car for litter, again it will save you lots of time in post-production if you remove that discarded cigarette or drinks can before you take the picture.
The FUJIFILM X-H1 and X-T2 are the backbone of my kit. Lenses with fast apertures are the best to give a really shallow depth of field. I use the three FUJINON zooms for flexibility – XF50-140mm f2.8, XF16-55mm f2.8 and XF10-24mm f4 – and also the XF90mm f2and XF16mm f1.4 primes. I also use a Samyang 8mmF2.8 fisheye lens for when I need to get into some tight spots; shooting from the passenger seat for example.
Filters are also a permanent part of my car photography kit with a polariser, to cut through reflections in the glass and the paintwork, and ND grads, to balance the exposure.
The last piece of kit I take is an EF-X500 flash gun with a remote lead to provide fill in light if I need it. I prefer to use available light for my car photography but it is always useful to be able to put in a little fill flash with a diffuser if I need to lift a deep shadow.
Taking the Images
I divide my shoot into three parts; statics, moving and tracking.
Most of the time I have a car for at least 24 hours or longer but sometimes I have to get everything done in a few hours and this is why you need to have a detailed plan.
1. Static shots
Because I had the Zenos for 24 hours I did most of the static images the evening before I was joined by Christie and the others.
The whole car needs to be shot from the front, rear, front three quarters and rear three quarters. Then I concentrate on the detail shots. Badges, lights, switch gear, engine bay and anything else that catches my eye.
As cars are shiny objects, you need to be very careful with reflections. For the overall shots I tend to shoot with either the 50-140mm zoom or 90mm prime to ensure I am far enough away I won’t be seen in any of the bodywork. With the detail shots you need to be closer to the car so keep an eye on reflections, especially at the edge of the shot.
I usually do the static shots three times, at different locations, to make sure I have a variety of images to choose from. You need to choose locations that have a clean background and remember to check for litter.
2. Moving shots
This is almost exclusively shot on the 50-140mmF2.8, sometimes with the 1.4x converter fitted if I need to stand further away from the road side. For cornering shots I try to find a road that dips down so the car comes over a crest in the road and has a clean background. Remember to take front and rear shots at each location.
I like to shoot cars through trees or grass verges with a slow shutter speed to give that sense of speed. Remember to lock the focus on the car if shooting through trees. With the X-H1 and X-T2 the ‘ignore obstacles’ AF custom function works really well at keeping the focus locked on the car.
Also remember to vary the angles as well. I like to get above the road and shoot down, especially on an open top car like the Zenos.
I also jumped into the passenger seat and took some pictures of Christie driving the car. The Fujifilm 10-24mm is great for this but I prefer to use my Samyang 8mm..
In a series of articles X Photographer Jeff Carter will be shooting at sports events in the UK and showing how to capture great images with the Fujifilm X Series without the need for a media pass. In this final blog of the series, Jeff gives you all his top tips for photographing cricket.
Sports Photography as a Spectator – Cricket
With the approach of the summer it seemed apt to choose that quintessential British summer sport for the twelfth and final Sports Photography as a Spectator feature – cricket. I travelled to the Emirates Riverside Stadium in County Durham for the opening Specsavers County Championship encounter of the 2018 season between Durham and Kent.
Cricket is played all across the country from spring until early autumn. Like all sports cricket is played at all levels from local cricket clubs, who play matches on the village green, right up to internationals. This summer England will be playing Pakistan in a series of tests and Australia in one day internationals but without a media pass these matches are not the best to capture with a camera due to the restrictions in place and limited shooting position.
Durham play in the first class league, the premiership if you want to refer to it in terms relating to soccer. However access for amateur photographers is certainly easier for cricket than it ever is in the top flight of the football premiership.
County Championship matches take place over four days and are at the mercy of the fickle British weather and if it rains, the play stops. Luckily the day I chose to travel to Durham the spring sunshine was glorious, if a little windy, and day one went ahead uninterrupted.
If possible attend the big matches on a week day when the stands are less busy. This will give you more options where you can take images from but always avoid getting in other spectators way when you are shooting.
Sports Photography as a Spectator – Cricket - YouTube
Cricket is a challenging game to photograph for a couple of reasons. The first is you are a long way from the action and for frame filling shots I was using the Fujinon XF100-400mm with the 1.4x converter. You can use shorter focal lengths but if you want to fill the frame, a focal length of 400mm or longer is going to be the required.
The second issue is cricket is a long game and there are long periods of little happening, with sudden flurries of activity. You need to be ready to react quickly when something does happen on the pitch.
If you haven’t shot cricket before I recommend that you go along to a match without a camera and observe how the game is played. This will improve your hit rate because you will be able to anticipate the action better.
BE PREPARED – What to Take
As always I contacted the club before travelling and I recommend any photographer to do this beforehand if you intend shooting at a first class game. Different clubs have different rules regarding photography and it is always better to check rather than being refused entry because you are carrying what may be deemed a professional camera because it has interchangeable lenses.
I did take all four Fujinon zooms and a couple of faster primes but the lens that got the most use was the XF100-400mm telephoto zoom with the two converters. I did use the XF50-140mm f2.8 for a wider angle of the game and also when the ball traveled to the boundary and was chased down by one of the fielders. I also used the XF10-24mm f4 for the ultra wide shots and I also had the Samyang 8mm f2.8 fisheye to get the whole stadium in the shot from the top of the grandstand.
I was using the FUJIFILM X-H1 and a FUJIFILM X-T2, with a second X-T2 in the bag as a back up. I didn’t bother taking a flashgun to the game as you are too far away from the action to be any use.
GET IN POSITION
Being able to choose a good position is easier on a weekday. With the stands pretty empty you have plenty of options on where to shoot from, this might not be so easy during the weekend of the big matches where you might be limited to one seat. On the Friday I attended the Durham v Kent match I was free to move around the different stands as I wished as long as I didn’t stand in the way of any spectators.
Try to get low down in the stands so that you are shooting at eye level with the players. The ideal position is to get as close to the line of play as you can but you are not allowed to shoot straight on to the batman or bowler as you will be in their eye line and may cause a distraction. You can get pretty near to the line of play, but watch where the fielding team players are standing as they may walk into your shot at the decisive moment.
The other position that proved to be quite good was to the side of the field on the short boundary. My shooting position was 90 degrees to the batsman or bowler and this allowed me to capture some great action images.
I did move up into the top of the grandstands for a while to capture some wide shots of the stadium but for action shots these positions were not very exciting. While the angle gave me a clean ‘grassy’ background, the images were just not very dynamic and even with a focal length of 560mm with the 1.4x converter fitted to the 100-400mm zoom I still couldn’t fill the frame, so I abandoned the high shots and went back down to the pitch side locations.
In a series of articles X Photographer Jeff Carter will be shooting at sports events in the UK and showing how to capture great images with the Fujifilm X Series without the need for a media pass.
Sports Photography as a Spectator – Mountain Bike Racing
So far in this series I have attended seven sports events which I have shot at some point in my 25 year career as a sports photographer but for part 8 of the ‘Sports Photography as a Spectator’ features I attended the Scottish X Country (SXC) Mountain Bike Racing Series event at Dalbeattie, a sport that is a first for me.
INTRODUCING THE SCOTTISH X COUNTRY MOUNTAIN BIKE SERIES
The Scottish Cross Country (SXC) Mountain Bike Series offers everything from Taster events for novice mountain bikers to full on Elite racing, and everything in between. The series of six events across Scotland on some of the most challenging mountain bike courses in the UK.
The event I attended in Dalbeattie in Dumfries and Galloway took part on the forest trails just south of the town. The SXC event attracted a large entry of riders of all ages from under 12s to veterans, with the top riders in the Elite category also taking part to build up their points for the national titles.
Races are run over a predetermined number of laps depending on the class. The Under 12’s race took place on a shorter course over two laps, while the Elite riders did five laps over the full course.
Sports Photography as a Spectator – Mountain Bike Racing - YouTube
BE PREPARED – What to Take
This is Mountain Bike Racing and takes place on forest trails that can offer some rough terrain, so dress accordingly. Also check the weather forecast before traveling and take wet weather gear for yourself and your photo gear if necessary.
As you are out in the forest take food and water as it can be a long day. While there is catering in the start finish area, it can be a long walk back if you are out on the far point of the course.
This is the first event in this series of features where I didn’t need the XF100-400mm f4.5/5.6 zoom as I was able to stand right next to the course. The long focal length was not required for the most part and under the trees the light was quite low so the f5.6 maximum aperture on the long lens would’ve forced me to raise the ISO to the top end of the range on the FUJIFILM X-T2.
For Mountain Bike Racing the XF50-140mm f2.8 is the best choice as you can fill the frame with the long end of the zoom while keeping the ISO lower in the challenging light conditions thanks to the f2.8 maximum aperture. I also had the 1.4x converter in my bag which I did use on a couple of occasions to give the lens a bit more pulling power. However, on the whole, I just needed the standard zoom range on the lens.
You can stand right next to the course and there are no barriers apart from around the start/finish area. Remember mountain bikes are fairly quiet, so if you are walking on the course make sure you keep an eye and ear open for oncoming competitors.
As this was a sport I had never shot before, I arrived early and walked the course, noting down where the best positions were for shooting. Look for water splashes and jumps, which will make your images more interesting.
Also don’t just shoot from eye level, get down low or up high if possible to vary the angle. Another good position is to go off the course and shoot through the trees. A long exposure of a rider with the trunks or branches of the trees can produce a different composition.
SHOOTING THE ACTION
Mountain Bike Racing is not as fast as motorised sport but the riders can move quickly. It is good to inject a sense of speed into some of your images by dropping the shutter speed down to 1/60s or lower using the panning technique.
A fast shutter speed of between 1/250 and 1/1000s is necessary to freeze the action, especially for jumps and water splashes.
The X-T2’s AF system has no problem in tracking the competitors easily but with trees and other obstacles on the course the autofocus can get confused and lose the lock. I always set both of my X-T2s to ‘boost’ to improve the reaction time and the AF-C custom setting is set to Ignore Obstacles (set 2).
For this event I used single point AF and focused on the riders face or upperbody.
Be careful when shooting riders under the trees with a bright background. The final image could be under exposured because of the backlighting confusing the metering if you use matrix or centre weighted. If you are using programme, aperture or shutter priority modes I recommend using spot metering and dialing in the necessary exposure compensation to get the right exposure for the competitor.
For metering I used the centre weighted setting most of the time to see the exposure in the viewfinder. I shoot in manual exposure mode, with the shutter speed dial set to T and the rear command dial used to adjust the shutter speed. I also set the ISO dial to ‘A’ and use the front command dial to select the required ISO.